1:29 SCALE DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE
Manufacturer: ARISTO-CRAFT TRAINS, 346 Bergen Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07304. Price: ART-22101 Southern Pacific U-25B ready-to-run diesel locomotive $249.95 each suggested list.
WHAT A MODEL. ARISTO-CRAFT's 1:29 scale U-25B locomotive combines looks, performance, and an indefinable sense of charisma making it seem worth however long you may have been waiting for its release. Let's give it the once-over.
In April, 1960, General Electric Transportation Systems Division introduced the first of its "high-horsepower" diesel locomotives. The following year, after testing it on some major American railroads, GE conducted a poll and used the results to modify the engine into a low-nose demonstrator version. In February, 1960 the first U-25B hauled the Pennsylvania Railroad's hotshot piggyback train and soon orders came from the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, and many other lines. Altogether, GE built 476 of the 2500 horsepower units. The last operating mainline U-25B retired from the CSX Railroad (formerly the Chesapeake & Ohio) about a year ago.
ARISTO-CRAFT's model follows the real engine's appearance and dimensions very closely. It scales 58 feet long by 9 feet 11 inches wide by 14 feet 9 1/2 inches tall at the cab roof. Our plans indicate the actual engine may have been 16 inches shorter end-to-end. I say "may have" because GE modified the chassis during the production period and the ARISTO-CRAFT model is a composite of that and other production changes. (For example, the one-piece front windshield became a two-piece low cost replacement, the almost flat low nose took on a slight slope, and GE made changes to louver, ladder, and side door dimensions.)
The model's width is perfect, the truck wheelbase is a perfect 9 feet 4 inches, and the distance between truck centers is within two scale inches of perfect.
The cab appears to be 3 or 4 scale inches too tall. The other imperfections are equally minor. For example, the brake cylinders sit out a few scale inches farther on the truck sideframes than they should and the truck journals protrude two or three scale inches farther than they should.
One discrepancy many hobbyists may find insignificant is the disparity between the model's scale and the track gauge, a problem it shares with many 1:24 and 1:22.5 scale models. (In 1:29 scale, 45mm Gauge One track equates to about 4 feet 4 inches between the rails, about 4 inches too narrow.)
The model is an assembly of modular plastic injection moldings. It is the longest injected molded locomotive any manufacturer in any scale has ever produced. It has metal handrails, wheel tires (the centers are black plastic inserts), and working truck equalization springs. The handrails are formed metal, with correct GE stanchion contours. ARISTO-CRAFT baked the paint onto the handrails for additional durability. Screws hold the modules together. The die work on the molds is good-slightly less crisp than some models we have reviewed but completely satisfactory. More importantly, the attention to detail and care of assembly are very good.
Let's look at the locomotive's features: Modular electrical connections, operating smoke unit, illuminated front and rear headlights and number boards, interior cab lighting, complete and convincing interior cab details, and sliding cab windows. The windows, incidentally, are clear plastic with a silver trim to represent the polished aluminum on the original engine. ARISTO-CRAFT has included such details as multiple air hoses, windshield wipers, lift rings, and the bell beneath the fireman's side of the superstructure in front of the fuel tank. ARISTO-CRAFT has even reproduced the headlight visors in their correct upside down position. Finally, they have neatly hidden three switches behind an operating door at the rear of the long hood. The switches control the smoke generator, the lights, and the motor.
The finish and graphics also deserve comment. Our sample came in the Southern Pacific "bloody nose" lark gray and scarlet paint scheme. The colors appeared accurate with no runs, sags, or other imperfections, the white lettering opaque and sharp. The road number is correct, unique for a large scale train manufacturer. Markings for fuel, water, the fire extinguisher locations, and even the little "F" designating the front end of the locomotive were clear and easy to read. An excellent metal replica of the builder's plate appears on each side of the engine.
Finally, ARISTO-CRAFT's Product Manager, Walter Matuch, reports his company has recently concluded successful negotiations with the Railroad Brotherhood and will include an engineer figure in future locomotive production.
So the model looks great and has a lot of detail; how does it run? Very well. ARISTO-CRAFT locomotives run best with ARISTO-CRAFT power packs and our sample performed better than most mass-produced locomotives. It displayed no wobble or "rock 'n' roll". It started smoothly but a little abruptly at about 5 scale miles per hour. Once it was running, it throttled down to about two or three s.m.p.h. Its top speed was faster than most of us would want it to run.
With a conventional power pack, the locomotive had a higher starting speed and displayed some tendency to surge. The ARISTO-CRAFT pack virtually eliminated that tendency, except at the very slowest speed, and then it was very tolerable. The performance of our sample was pretty impressive.
We were unable to test the model's pulling power, but the manufacturer claims it should handle about 15 freight cars on straight and level track. It will operate on 1100 radius (or 4 foot diameter) curves, but ARISTO-CRAFT has avoided having to shorten the model to accomplish that. Instead they have specially engineered the way the trucks mount to the underframe.
U-25B locomotives ran as single units on local freight hauls or as multiple units on mainline runs. They would be as much at home with ARISTO-CRAFT's FA and FB units as with other U25-Bs, just as real railroads ran them.
ARISTO-CRAFT has a winner here, engineers. The U-25B looks very good, runs very well, and most hobbyists would consider the price very reasonable. It accurately captures the essence of its prototype. If you like big time, American prototype, mainline railroading and diesel engines, you are almost certain to want to own ARISTO-CRAFT's U-25B. It is that exciting.-RR